Grey cat with blue eyes is wrapped in a towel with bubbles around him and on his head.

Giving your cat a bath

Cats do most of their grooming themselves, but sometimes a bath has to happen. Here’s how to make bathtime as smooth as possible.

Most domestic cats are not big fans of water. So, it’s a good thing that they do most of their grooming themselves. And for the most part, they do an amazing job licking themselves clean with their coarse tongues. But inevitably, cat owners face a time when their cat needs a bath. This can be quite a challenge, and if you’re not careful, you might just end up bearing the scars.

Your best bet is to prepare properly for bath time:

  • Get your supplies ready and lay them out within arm’s reach: cat shampoo, a non-slip mat, a cup for rinsing, a brush, a towel, cotton balls (for your cat’s ears), wipes/washcloths, and treats.
  • Recruit someone to help you. A friend, family member, or fellow cat lover are your best options.
  • Fill the bathtub/sink with 3 to 4 inches of lukewarm (not hot!) water before you bring the cat into the bathroom.
  • Fill a clean container with lukewarm water for rinsing.

Now, take a few moments to plan what you’re going to do—so you and your helper are on the same page or so you don’t get confused in the process. Trust us, a wriggling, meowing ball of uncomfortable kitty can make you forget everything.

Wear a long-sleeved shirt when you bathe your cat. It will protect your arms from kitty’s claws (a nail trim prior to bathing might be a good idea). Or, for thicker, waterproof protection, wear a rain jacket.

It’s best to move quickly and calmly through the cat-bathing process. Gently place your cat into the tub, and yes, you may need your friend to help hold her in there. Rub a small amount of shampoo in your hands and work it into your cat’s fur. Take care to keep soap and water out of her face.

Don’t linger. Use a damp washcloth or wipe to clean kitty’s face AFTER you’ve removed her from the tub.

Once you’re satisfied with the cleanliness of kitty’s coat, it’s time to rinse. And you have to do this part really well. If you leave soap in her fur, it can cause mild to severe skin irritations. So, rinse her thoroughly with the water you’ve prepared in advance.

After kitty’s rinsed, quickly and gently remove her from the tub. Wrap her in a soft fluffy towel and carefully pat her dry. She will more than likely begin licking herself dry, too. Try to work around her, and don’t rub with the towel, especially if your cat has long hair. You’ll end up with knots, which no one wants.

Help kitty get completely dry by gently toweling her off. A short bath and gentle towel dry will make the experience as positive as possible. It’s really important that she gets dry and warm, so keep an eye on her and watch for shivering. You may have to put in some extra cuddling time to warm her up.

Phew, that was rough, but it’s over. Now give kitty a treat and tell her what a good sport she was.

Or, if this process still sounds like a bit too much, you can contact your local groomer or your veterinarian’s office for bathing/grooming options.

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